Solving riddles can be an interesting thing to do, if you’re the type who likes logic or word puzzles – I happen to be one of those people, when I’m in the proper mood for it anyway. Some books struggle a bit with riddles, though – after all, it’s one thing to solve a riddle, an entirely other to come up with said riddle in the first place. So, I get it, I really do – including riddles in your books can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t complain about it a bit.
This all came about when I read Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses. Without spoiling anything, there’s a riddle in the second half of the book that protagonist Feyre can solve to make everything much easier on her. I could be really cocky and say that I knew it right away because I’m a genius who solves riddles left and right without a problem – but, well, that would be lying, and lying is bad, boys and girls. Sure, I could probably earn a little gold star for solving it, but I used plenty of context to figure it out, and it really just didn’t seem like a difficult riddle – and that really, really frustrated me.
If you have a riddle that’s supposed to be this nearly impossible thing that stumps your characters and keeps the action going, then it has to be a riddle that’s actually difficult. I know that everyone looks at riddles differently, but if I can get it, I feel like at least 1 out of 3 readers is going to be in the same boat as me. I even asked my roommate, who had read the book recently, what she thought about it, and she agreed that it was just a bit too easy for the protagonist to be so stymied by the whole thing that she had to undergo much more difficult trials instead of solving it.
That brings us to the main problem with riddles, though – how hard is too hard? Just because some readers find it easy doesn’t mean that every reader will – based on prior knowledge and one’s skill with riddles, some are simply going to find certain riddles easier to solve than others. So, if you want to have a difficult riddle in your book, you’re going to have to make it really difficult and complicated – but then you risk coming up with an answer that makes no sense because the riddle is so convoluted in order to keep the characters and the reader alike guessing.
How can you find the happy medium? How can you come up with a clever riddle that makes the reader think without making them pull out of the story because it’s too unrealistic or silly? I definitely don’t have an answer, but it’s something that I hope other people have an answer to, because I am getting tired of too-easy and too-hard riddles – bring on those lovely, in-the-middle riddles! And no, I did not mean to rhyme – obviously I am a master of words, and this is why this topic intrigues me.